Sunday, August 14, 2022

D’var Eikev

Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25


In the parsha for this coming week, Moses continues to address the gathered tribes as they prepare to cross the river Jordan into the promised land. He recounts events that happened in the desert, including the manna, the golden calf, and Aaron's death. Moses describes the blessings God will bestow upon the Israelites if they follow God’s law and the punishments they will encounter if they disobey.

One passage in particular stood out to me. In Deuteronomy 11:2, Moses says

וִֽידַעְתֶּם֮ הַיּוֹם֒ כִּ֣י ׀ לֹ֣א אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶ֗ם אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יָדְעוּ֙ וַאֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־רָא֔וּ אֶת־מוּסַ֖ר ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם אֶת־גׇּדְל֕וֹ אֶת־יָדוֹ֙ הַחֲזָקָ֔ה וּזְרֹע֖וֹ הַנְּטוּיָֽה

Take thought this day that it was not your children, who neither experienced nor witnessed the lesson of your God - God’s majesty, mighty hand, and outstretched arm;

This stands in contrast to the line we say annually on Passover from Exodus 13:8:

הִגַּדְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔ בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּעֲב֣וּר זֶ֗ה עָשָׂ֤ה ה' לִ֔י בְּצֵאתִ֖י מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃

You shall explain to your child on that day, ‘It is because of what God did for me when I went free from Egypt.’

From this text, the Haggadah includes the instruction “In every generation, each of us is obligated to see ourselves as if we have personally gone forth from Egypt.”

Why would those present for the miracles be reminded that their children did not share the experience, but everyone from that day forward must act as though we did take part in the journey?

I believe the intent is to keep the story fresh and vibrant. Those who were present may take for granted their hard won faith. Moses reminds them their faith did slip several times through the journey in spite of being present for the miracles. If they don’t keep in mind that the coming generations are even farther removed from the Exodus and events that followed, they won’t pass on the story effectively. The lessons, traditions, and even obligations that come from that story will then be lost to time.

For the future generations, the burden is just as great. Once the first-hand accounts have all been passed on, they must be perpetually carried and renewed. The surest path to keep the story fresh is to transpose each new generation into the role of the protagonists. Rather than having to rely on an ever lengthening chain of ancestors for continuity, we start again fresh with the very first and strongest link each time.

This takes me back to the two different messages, each part of the same goal. From this, we can learn that communication is not just about what’s said, but also what’s heard. It’s also important to consider the result of communication. Sometimes we have to deliver different messages depending on the audience in order to achieve the same result. As with these instructions, we must be aware of the people with whom we speak and how best to create shared meaning.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Farmyard Matchmaker

I recently was flipping through the hundreds of free channels on my Roku TV and came across a rather unusual game show. The premise was that farmers would bring some of their animals, and the host would invite two different farmers at a time to come into the pen to see if they’d match well and get along, ignore each other, or if they’d act aggressive and territorial.

The host said, “Let’s bring out Bessie the cow and Herbert the horse!”

Well, the cow and horse came out, and at first seemed content to just be on stage together without interacting, but then Bessie slowly approached Herbert. She gave him a tentative nuzzle, and after a moment he leaned into it and nuzzled back.

”Fantastic! We have a match!” the host grinned.

“Next,” the host continued, “we have Peter the pig and Darren the ram.”

Out came the pig and sheep, and right away it was clear there were going to be problems. Peter grunted and snorted loudly, not taking his eyes off the ram. Darren, meanwhile, lowered his head, showing his horns and pawing at the ground. Before either could start to charge, the farmers swooped in and directed them off the set.

“Oh no! Looks like we have…” the host began, pausing and leaning toward the studio audience. They all sang out in chorus, “no match!!”

“And our final contestants today,” the host said, “are a first for us here on Farmyard Matchmaker. We have not just two possible friends, but two groups to try to match! Farmer Brown, who do you have with you today?”

Farmer Brown entered, replying, “I’ve got my flock of 5 geese!” The geese followed behind, beginning to peck at the set curiously.

“Wonderful!” the host crowed. “And farmer Alston, I see you’ve got chickens. Wow… there’s one, two, —”

Farmer Alston quickly interrupted, “Don’t count my chickens before they match!!”

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Twelve Days of COVID

On the first day of COVID the CDC did say, “Remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the second day of COVID the CDC may ask, “Please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the third day of COVID the CDC demands, “Wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the fourth day of COVID the CDC’s routine: “Stay quarantined, wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the fifth day of COVID the CDC allot “TIME FOR YOUR SHOT! Stay quarantined, wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the sixth day of COVID the CDC will ask, “Funds for COVAX, TIME FOR YOUR SHOT! Stay quarantined, wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the seventh day of COVID the CDC’s dismayed, “Watch Delta’s wave, funds for COVAX, TIME FOR YOUR SHOT! Stay quarantined, wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the eighth day of COVID the CDC attests, “Take rapid tests, watch Delta’s wave, funds for COVAX, TIME FOR YOUR SHOT! Stay quarantined, wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the ninth day of COVID the CDC embraced, “Please travel safe, take rapid tests, watch Delta’s wave, funds for COVAX, TIME FOR YOUR SHOT! Stay quarantined, wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the tenth day of COVID the CDC did cheer, “Remdesivir, please travel safe, take rapid tests, watch Delta’s wave, funds for COVAX, TIME FOR YOUR SHOT! Stay quarantined, wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the eleventh day of COVID the CDC passed on, “Here’s omicron! Remdesivir, please travel safe, take rapid tests, watch Delta’s wave, funds for COVAX, TIME FOR YOUR SHOT! Stay quarantined, wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

On the twelfth day of COVID the CDC then brought, “Have booster shots, here’s omicron, Remdesivir, please travel safe, take rapid tests, watch Delta’s wave, funds for COVAX, TIME FOR YOUR SHOT! Stay quarantined, wash both your hands, please wear your mask, and remember stand 6 feet away.”

Friday, March 25, 2022

D’var Shmini

The many rules about how sacrifices are to be handled and what fire to use reminds me of the story of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov. When he saw misfortune threatening the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished, and the misfortune averted.

Later, when his disciple, the Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: ‘Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer.’ And again the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: ‘I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place, and this must be sufficient.’ It was sufficient, and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his study, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient.’ And it was sufficient.

What I learn from this is that it's important to learn from the leaders before us, but that we don't need to follow precisely in their footsteps to be successful. We should remember and retell their stories as we do in reading the parsha every week. But we will be approaching the challenges we face in our own personal way.